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St Meilyr's Church
Llysyfran
Pembrokeshire SA63 4RS

Revd. Becky Davies
Phone: 01437 532 925
Email:

The building itself

This is basically a medieval 2-celled church, which was much restored in Victorian times, (1869) when the ‘lean-to’ vestry was added. The architect was F.Wehnert and the cost was £150.00.  80% of the core fabric of the building is pre-19th century.

Inside St Meilyr's ChurchThe chancel and the nave are 12th and early 13th century, constructed chiefly in ‘medium-sized mixed rubble mostly limestone, unsquared and uncoursed, with crude medieval quoins’. Much of this has been covered with 19th century pointing outside, and 20th century rendering inside. The low, semi-circular chancel arch is the oldest part of the building.

The medieval baptistery is probably 14th or 15th century, and the ‘large, gabled double bellcote, with two plain triangular-headed openings’ is probably of similar age. There are two bells, one is dated 1632. The font in St Meilyrs decorated for Easter

The limestone font has a rounded octagonal bowl and a cylindrical stem, from the 14th – 15th centuries, on a square, claw-moulded base, probably from a different font.

Tradition recalls that the church was built on this site, at the foot of the steeply sloping churchyard and hidden by trees, to avoid the ‘pirates’ (Viking raiders?) who navigated the Afon Syfynwy, a tributary of the river Cleddau. Slight traces of a MOTTE have been identified close to the church gate.

History of the site

It is quite possible that there was pre-conquest (1066) religious use of the site, and the church is of course dedicated to a Celtic saint (see below).

St Meilyr’s was not always a parish church, in the post-conquest era; it was a chapelry of the medieval Deanery of Rhos, and was it seems in private patronage, controlled in 1574 by William Philipps of Picton Castle, and in 1594 by alternate ‘rights of presentation’ between the Earl of Essex and Sir John Philipps and John Scourfield of New Moat and John Wogan of Wiston.

Llysyfran Derivation of LLYS-Y-FRÂN court of Brân : llys, y, personal name Brân

 

Some early spellings : Lysurane (1326) Lysfrane (1402) Llysvrane (1535) Lesfrayne (1563) Lisyfraen (1594) Llysyvran (c 1600

 

Early forms of the spelling favour the personal name Brân. Names of animals and birds, frequently associated with fanciful names for ruined houses and castles (such as Llys-y-dryw ‘the wren’s court’ and Frog Hall), prompted the intrusive definite article in later forms as the state of the site deteriorated and became the haunt of the raven (brân); compare with Dinas Brân near Llangollen in Denbighshire. The earthwork north of the church is believed to be the remains of the llys.

 

(Details from Dictionary of the Place-Names of Wales by Hywel Wyn Owen & Richard Morgan : Gomer Press 2007)

 

When people talk about Llys-y-frân nowadays, they tend to translate is as ‘court of the crows’. There are plenty of rooks and jackdaws and the occasional carrion crow around the church! Other corvids – magpies and jays are also regular worshippers, as are buzzards and sometimes a green woodpecker.
is not mentioned in the ‘Taxation’ of 1291, but in 1536 the rectory of ‘Llysvrane’ was assessed at 60s 3d for tenths (tithes) of 6s 0½d. By 1833 it was endowed with £400.00 royal bounty, and the church had become the parish church of Llysyfrân (taken from a 1988 description of the church by N D Ludlow, Archaeoleg CAMBRIA Archaeology and the LLYSYFRAN insert in The Buildings of Wales, Pembrokeshire, by Thomas Lloyd, Julian Orbach and Robert Scourfield). 

There are also some interesting gravestones, particularly The Mariner's Grave

Who was Meilyr?

After the departure of the Romans, in the 5th century, possibly in 429 or 447 a Christian mission led by GARMON, (c378-448) Bishop of Auxerre in Armorica (French lands between the Seine and the Loire) visited Wales to preach against the ideas of Pelagius, who played down the corrupting effects of sin. Garmon’s message, from Augustine of Hippo, was taken up by the true believers (including the early Celtic saints, who were usually monks like David) who realised that the sinner’s one hope lay in God’s mercy.

Although most of Garmon’s missionary work centred on north Wales (where during his visit in he helped to repulse fierce attacks by marauding pagan Picts and Saxons) his descendants continued to influence the spread of Christianity throughout the country. His nephew Emyr Llydaw was an Armorican regulus, and his son, Gwyndaf is thought to have founded the church at Llanwnda, near Goodwick. His three sons (Emyr’s grandsons, and Garmon’s great-great nephews - if such relations can exist) all have churches in Pembrokeshire dedicated to them – Crisiolus (Eglwyswrw) MEILYR (Llys-y-frân) and Llawddog (Cilgerran).